If ever there was a release to tease, it is this one. The reason being it’s brevity (two pieces under six minutes in total duration) which leaves you wanting more. Conceived during an artists in residency that Muller undertook at Laity Lodge in Real County, Texas, “Blue Canyon” is a response to his 2019 release “Lower River” in which Michael A Muller (also one half of the Austin based Neo-Classical duo Balmorhea) strips back the elements. Not only is it a response to his previous work, it is also inspired by the particular landscape which Muller found himself in.
Indeed eerily preceding the quarantine / lock down period of March, Muller was immersed in solitude in the Sixty plus year old property, one which is located in a near mile drop in elevation in Cedar and Caliche Wilderness (the cover image shows the property from when it was acquired back in 1957). Muller captured the music using only two microphones and a Steinway and Sons Grand Piano with every note, sound, pluck and tone coming from the instrument and the body of the instrument itself.
Inspired by the isolation as well as hiking through the canyons, birdwatching and a violent thunderstorm that blew through on the final night, the music is an improvisation which comes as a direct response to what Muller has observed, felt and inspired to create. The pieces have a rhythmical feel that marry soft and more stringent playing that shows at times both a fragility as well as a confidence (on which feels born out or resilience or overcoming some sort of adversity). This is probably better noticed on “Blue Canyon I” which is the lighter in mood of the two pieces.
With “Blue Canyon II” Muller shows off his cinematic chops as the piece has the same framework as it’s predecessor, but this time ’round there is this eerie sense of menace in the piece which is brought through the in the darker tones of the piano and the weight used in playing. Both pieces reward the listener via headphones with a subtle background swirl of rhythms, creaking sounds, loops and ambience with the all the elements aligning nicely to create complete pieces which take you down dark paths.
When you read the press release notes you could easily expect some form of a predictable nature sound to the music via field recordings or light and airy music that replicates this. What you get with “Blue Canyons” for me is a response to isolation and introspection where contemplation has taken place and some form of healing has happened as well. The fact that this was conceived prior to both the quarantine and the US election while sounding like it fits these times rather nicely, is just one of the ways it succeeds.
“Blue Canyon” is a Digital only release via Western Vinyl and is released on December the first. Hopefully this is just the beginning in more material from Muller as this will guarantee to leave you seeking more.